Revisiting the “Graphic” in “Graphic Novel”

Upon reading Ellen Forney’s Marbles I was pleasantly reminded of the many reasons of why I enjoyed the genre of graphic novels and what it had to bring. Usually when looking into the art form of graphic novels I and many others, looks at the many genres that hold a grip on it. Things such as the superhero genre, Dystopian horrors works (like The Walking Dead) and adaptations of popular manga like Dragon Ball seem to hold the abundance of all graphic novels. The like cater more to the visual aspect of the medium rather than the the “novel” aspect of it. Cool and colorful panels splash the pages from beginning to end, but due to such the focus becomes more of the illustrator’s art style rather than the implications that art brings. Contrast to this is Marbles, which comparatively speaking does not hold the same visual prowess that others have brought to the art form.

However, even with that being said the most perfect aspect of the graphic novel is how graphic it is in every way. Not just the shocking panels displayed such as the “suicide rate chart” (pg.44) or the many photos of nude individuals (pg.32-38), but the images and what they evoke out of us readers. It is easy to get lost in the panels and what they offer, not just in visual medium, but the medium of writing as a whole. Usually in graphic novels the images take stage, and it is not to say that Forney’s work doesn’t ring true to this, but i would say there is more to this.

Forney’s panels are complimentary to the story at hand, instead of taking the forefront. This may sound counterproductive to my message of respecting and rekindling my love for graphic novels, but everything i mean to say stays true. It is nice to admire the panels and the images many illustrators provide, but many times in the aforementioned genres I categorized they felt like they took a forefront instead of being one half the title they are supposed to be. Graphic Novels are exactly what they are named, and some works lean on one side more to the other. However, with Forney’s Marbles strikes this balance that I admire. Both the storytelling and art panels complement each other to bring the best out of this medium. I admire the art not for it’s style but for it’s representation of the medium and what it truly has to offer when done without compromising either the “graphic” or “novel” part of the storytelling. The drawings are simple but that isn’t the point of the visual medium graphic novels are. The point is to aid the imagination us readers have and to enhance the words that accompany them. Forney’s work deals with unsettling topics and issues, the beauty of the art that laid my eyes upon wasn’t the innate artistic talent. But more so the ability to be raw and enhance the issues delved upon with the use of visual graphics. To me this is the essence of graphic novels and what made me appreciate works like this and works like Watchmen which seeks to more than wow with its images.

Remembering A Time Beyond Us

Joe Brainard’s I Remember teaches us a vital aspect when it comes to our memories and.      how we access them. The sporadic nature in which we take the god, the bad, the unimportant and the mundane. In many stanzas we are given what matters most of each memory. Some may have more content than others, but most opt to focus on the main points and finer details. No long build ups to some of the memories, just the key points and how that connect to other memories residing within us. A collective of memories are used to convey a central idea.

This is not just Joe Brainard using writing to effectively get at some idea in his head, he is displaying what is the beginning of any autobiographical material. The act of remembrance and what that did to us and for us. How does the act of remembering something affect us from the time of the memory to the current you?  Perhaps you was once mad at the memory, but now view it as nothing. Brainard explores the depth of his mind and in doing so allows us to reminisce. This is autobiography at its base, being able to take an experience and convey that to an audience who may gain from it. Some of those memories may be spotty or even incorrect upon initial review (as shown in the text) but it is us nonetheless. That is the point, that is a message, perhaps not the message but a point that his works is meant to evoke.

I remember a time before now, one where my mind was clouded and full of resentment for past actions. I remember viewing it with a strong sense of melancholy. I now view it with a bittersweet after taste. These points on which I reminisce  may not be the same but I remember  that both matter to me and those around me. A change in perception automatically means a change in a memory. Not the truth nor the autobiographical pact that one must upkeep changes, but what I see in them always does. I Remember is simple yet complex, just as the way we traverse truth and excavate old scenarios in our conscience. The book is in some ways the autobiographical pact, and in some ways an antithesis to it with parts of memories being rearranged or expanded upon.

 

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Crying In H Mart: The Struggle in The Mother’s Tongue

When reading Crying In H Mart: A Memoir I was instantly brought into a time where I would travel around Jamaica, Queens only to be met with the culture food courts on Jamaica avenue. After traversing the lucid pages of the first chapter, I was met with the grief and loneliness. Not just from the loss of a loved one, but with the confusion and isolation met with someone who is finding their own culturally. I felt at home as a mixed child with the author giving dropping lines such as “Growing up in America with a Caucasian father and a Korean mother, I relied on my mom for access to our Korean heritage.” (pg.3). As a Black and Hispanic male growing up in Queens, I always felt that I had to “get in touch” with my ethnicity in order to be a part of something more than myself. The first chapter really strikes that chord of attempting to be in touch with sides of yourself while grasping at every little thing to keep hold of it. Even if it means to dismiss peoples own right to that (ethnic group) because you identify more with that group than they do. There’s not “X”, “Y’” or “Z” to have an opinion or understand. The first chapter was nothing but recollection of familiar turf, that I wished to pave but could not. 

As the story goes on, I realized the time in H mart was more that, it was an account of what the author identity and life took her and how the H mart was internalized into something more. Many of the passages in later chapters are not only vivid but does a great job of making you feel personally apart of the storytelling. It’s as if a friend decided to personally run you by a whole segment of their life you were unfamiliar with. Crying In H Mart to me was more than an autobiographical detail of one’s life. It felt like a personal story that needed to be told in order to express the author’s own inner conflict. Identity in the early chapters, in the later chapters, growth.  

Michelle Zauner does everything to make sure that the language used is personal, vivid, and most of all Her. Though I resonated with more of the early childhood aspect (in a time before yonder) as opposed to the growth and success of Zauner with getting in touch with her “mother’s tongue”. Not that it isn’t a great revelation and conclusion to the problems that she faced within but to me the story hit me the most in the beginning in a struggle that is more than relatable.  

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Joyner Lucas & The Duality of Pain

There is nothing but sorrow and pain when it comes to the loss of a loved one. Especially when it comes to those who have unfortunately taken their own lives. The wondering of what went wrong and what could’ve been done is something that Joyner Lucas’ song “I’m Sorry” expresses and seeks to understand. Joyner creates a biography/ auto-biography hybrid within the song as he tells the tale of his friend’s possible final thoughts while overlapping it with his own about the situation. This creates a dilemma in the storytelling that makes lister have to distinguish who the voice of the story is at sometimes. The song is separated into two distinct parts: one from the perspective of a friend who committed the act and the other from Lucas himself who has to live with the knowledge of it. The song presents a structure in its lyrics that focuses on duality and Juxtaposition. Things such as artist John legend’s song “ordinary people” is continually referred to on both parts of the song showing that perhaps it is not as easy as it seems to be an “ordinary” person or perhaps this is what “ordinary” people have to deal with.  

Though the first part of the song deals with more the ethical aspects that Phillipe Lejeune speaks about in regards to autobiography and storytelling, I first wish to focus on the more autobiographical part of the song (which is the second part). In the second part of the song words are lyrical structures are repeated in order to emphasize the similarities both speakers have while also contrasting their situationsLines like “And my mind spinning, this is the line finish. Truth is I don’t care about how you feel about my feelings”. Is displayed in both parts and helps to create a narrative of emotional dissonance between both Joyner and his friend that he characterizes. The song creates this symmetrical structure that blends the mind of both youth with viewers only asking “what if they cared about how the other viewed them?”. Would it have made a difference or would it have created some sense of clarity between the two? Regardless the song elevates it themes when presenting how both the parties are afflicted and how it can create this cycle of sadness and darkness. These thoughts from Joyner help to not only give insight to his life but to help breathe life into the situation and his friend (figuratively). The language is universal enough, that listeners are able to resonate with similar emotions and thoughts. However, it is also specific enough that it is still Joyner’s story at the end of the day.  

When looking at how Phillipe Lejeune’s “On Autobiography” there is a clear part that helps to resonate and bring forth his ideas within the song. One of the categories Lejeune presents in relation to autobiographical prose is the “Position of the narrator” and how “The narrator and the principal character are identical.” (pg.4). Though the narrator and principal character of the are different characters (at times) in the song, there is still argument to be made on how the narrator and PC (principal character) are the same. The song plays many times with the focus of the narrator and the blending of the two lends itself to what Lejeune’s ideals are. The principal character may shift in the song but the narrator and how the message comes across is the same. In this way though the narrator and PC shifts back and forth there is still room to see how it is the same “voice” and how it aligns with Lejeune. Another thing to note of it is how Joyner plays with the aspect of character. As noted in Ann Powers article “This Song Is About You” there is a blending of truth and characterization in many artists song as non-fiction and fiction intertwine. “I’m Sorry” plays with such things as the first part has Joyner standing in place of his deceased friend. The last written words of his friend are definitely real, but the actual contents of it are subjective at best. This can definitely raise some ethical issues as one must question the validity of some of the words or possible situation. Not the tragedy of losing a loved one, but if Joyner has the right to speak on his behalf. Perhaps the question lies on if anyone is permitted to speak on behalf of the deceased in these kinds of situations? Is it something to even be questioned or do people even question it to begin with?  

Though both parts of the song have their merits artistically, they both strike a chord for many who listen. I believe that regardless of such Joyner is able to capture the duality of pain while construing things in this biographical/autobiographical lens. Some of the ideas and questions presented may be present due to the nature of the subject matter. However, their is no question that this is Joyner’s story to tell at the end of the day.

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